August 26, 2011

Vanilla Ice Cream Taste Test

In planning for last weekend's cooking, I planned to make some more of the Grilled Cinnamon-Sugar Peaches we wrote about recently.   In preparation for that, I had Juli pick up some more vanilla ice cream, as the carton we had was almost empty.   She decided to pick up a couple different kinds, so we could conduct a taste test.

The three we tested were Kemps Old-Fashioned Homemade Vanilla, which is what we usually go with, Blue Bunny Original Vanilla Flavored Ice Cream and Breyers Smooth and Dreamy No Sugar Added Vanilla.   Although I like some of the Breyers flavors (especially their French Vanilla), I was pretty wary of the Smooth and Dreamy.  In my experience, ice cream with no added sugar is pretty much bad.  Still, it was something to try.

I grilled up some peaches and served them with small portions of each of the three ice creams (the picture below includes two ice cream samples; the white-colored one is the Blue Bunny, while the yellow one to the right is the Kemps).  We both sampled each and compared our impressions and rankings.   The results were as follows.

Breyers Smooth and Dreamy No Sugar Added Vanilla.   This one was just plain bad.  Like, truly awful, to a degree I didn't think possible for ice cream.  Even a not-very-good ice cream is still at least okay, just because it is ice cream.  This stuff, on the other hand, didn't seem much like ice cream at all.  It had a very artificial flavor that reminded one of cornstarch and chemicals more than vanilla, and an unpleasant texture - too light, yet somehow stiff.  It didn't taste of cream at all, or even particularly of milk, and it was so full of thickeners that it barely melted at all even after sitting for 10 minutes.  I suppose that might be a plus if for some reason you wanted to use it as a decoration rather than eating it, but as ice cream it was a bust.  It was a struggle for either of us to eat more than one bite.  We recommend you avoid this vile stuff at all costs. 

Blue Bunny Original Vanilla Flavored Ice Cream.   This one wasn't bad, but it wasn't really very good, either.  It tasted more like milk products and vanilla than chemicals, but the flavor was nonetheless pretty anemic.   The texture was not bad, but it was overly airy, and there seemed to be more ice crystals throughout the ice cream than one generally finds in commercial ice cream.  I'd rate it a little bit below your average soft-serve vanilla..  Juli likes soft-serve vanilla a lot more than she liked this one.

Kemps Old-Fashioned Homemade Vanilla.   It's not really homemade, of course, but it has a flavor that reminds one of a really good homemade ice vanilla ice cream..  The texture was thick and creamy, and it tasted of cream and vanilla, with no unpleasant undertone or aftertaste.   It's a bit more expensive than the Blue Bunny, but well worth it.  In my opinion, Kemps Homemade Vanilla compares well to much more expensive brands like Ben & Jerry's, and it was easily the best of the three brands we tested on this occasion.

We might do another taste test like this in the future, pitting the Kemps against some other brands of vanilla ice cream falling within roughly the same price range, to see if we can find one that rivals or surpasses Kemps.   Meanwhile, we'd love to hear which brands of vanilla ice cream you prefer. 

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